THE parents of an autistic boy completed a sponsored skydive in aid of his nursery.
Carl and Laura Bennett, of Church Lane, Shiplake, decided to raise money for sensory toys after three-year-old Joe was diagnosed in November.
The couple and Carl’s father Phil jumped 16,000ft at Middle Wallop airfield in Hampshire.
Mr Bennett, 26, a corporal in the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers, jumped solo as he is trained while his wife and father jumped in tandem.
Mrs Bennett, 27, said: “The day was made for us, with perfect conditions. The sky was blue with only a few fluffy clouds. It was out of this world.”
The experience had begun on a different note.
Mrs Bennett said: “It was a little bit scary as we had to wait a while because there had been an accident where a man dislocated his shoulder on landing.
“We were sitting on the sidelines thinking, ‘oh God, we’re next’.”
The trio were part of a group of people skydiving and were briefed on what do when they jumped out of the plane. However, there was another scare when they were in the air.
Mrs Bennett said: “There was a noise and I felt the plane stall but the guys reassured us.
“There were 16 people in a line waiting to jump but it was just me and Phil doing a tandem. Phil was more nervous than I was.
“We both felt that the fear would go because when you get out of the plane you can see the sea and the Isle of Wight.
“The closer you get to the door you feel how cold it is and the excitement as well. It was really, really amazing.”
The Bennetts have so far raised £935 for Shiplake Village Nursery, which Joe attends four times a week, while Mr Bennett Snr raised £251 for multiple sclerosis research.
Mrs Bennett said: “I had bought Joe some sensory toys for home and thought I would raise some money to get some for the nursery, not just for Joe but for children in the future.
“I was astonished by the generosity of local people.Lots of people donated £20 or more. Now we want to see if there is one big thing that we can buy. ”
Since the skydive Mrs Bennett has accepted an invitation to join the nursery’s fundraising committee.
She said: “I am very much looking forward to my next adventure.” Joe was diagnosed with autism and a sensory disorder at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford in November.
Cpl Bennett, who is based at RAF Wattersham in Suffolk, was on a two-month course in Kenya when he found out about his son’s condition. He comes home at weekends and for holidays.
Mrs Bennett, who is a full-time carer for her son, said: “We wondered whether there was something wrong with Joe as he is slower than the other children.
“He has no words. At first no one could understand what was wrong with him as he does not look any different from any other child.
“Joe’s condition is something that Carl and I have embraced and done our best to cope with and we will do what we can to raise a lot of money.
“We were sad to find something was wrong with him, even if it is not health-related, but he is an amazing little boy. We both love Joe so much because he is such a character. This has had a big impact on our lives but I wouldn’t change Joe for the world.”
To make a donation, contact Mrs Bennett via firstname.lastname@example.org
• In 2008, Cpl Bennett was on tour in Afghanistan when he helped save the life of Pte Gary Hudson after their truck was hit by a roadside bomb. He received a framed commendation for his bravery from the Duke of Edinburgh.